Special to the
Opelika Observer

Last week, by a 28-2 vote, the Alabama Senate approved a $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund for Fiscal Year 2020, which starts October 1 and a 4% pay raise for Alabama’s teachers and education support personnel, which follows a 2.5% pay raise last year. It is the largest education budget in Alabama’s history.
“This education budget, the largest in Alabama’s history, is a historic investment in the success of Alabama’s schools and colleges,” said Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. “We have made progress, but I don’t think anyone, from teachers to parents to legislators, is satisfied with where we are in national educational rankings. This budget invests a 4% pay raise in our teachers, because the people leading the classrooms can help accomplish positive outcomes better than anyone else in the school system, and we need to make sure that they have every resource that they need to be successful.”
The FY20 education budget includes a $27 million increase for First Class, Alabama’s nationally-recognized, volunteer pre-kindergarten program. This year, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranked First Class as the highest-quality Pre-K program in the nation, for the 13th year in a row.
The Senate’s education budget includes the 4% pay raise for all K-12 and two-year college education employees, a $39 million increase for the Community College System, a $6 million increase for workforce development programs administered by the Department of Commerce, and an additional $900,000 for career tech initiatives in the K-12 system.
“This is a banner day for education in Alabama. Thanks to a growing economy and the fiscal discipline that Republicans have had for the past several years, we now have the largest education budget in the history of our state,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said. “A strong educational system is the foundation of a thriving state, and the 4% pay raise represents the Legislature’s commitment to rewarding teachers and ensuring that Alabama is competitive in recruiting the best teachers we can to lead Alabama’s classrooms.”
Alabama’s largest education budget in history also includes a $1.5 million increase for dual enrollment scholarships, an additional $10 million for the Alabama Reading Initiative, and a $500,000 increase for school-based mental health programs.
The FY20 education budget now goes to the House of Representatives.
Last Thursday concluded the 15th of 30 possible legislative days in the 2019 regular session.